June 5, 2023
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Life & Culture

Review: New ‘Shazam!’ film is a complete sham

Shazam! Fury of the Gods

Warner Bros. Pictures

Comic book movies are sort of in a weird spot right now. The post- “Avengers: Endgame” (2019) landscape of the superhero genre has definitely had its hits and misses, but it seems that the hype surrounding these big releases is not as strong as it once was. “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantamania” (2023) saw one of Marvel’s biggest declines in box office sales, a 69.8% dropoff from its opening weekend. Is it collective fatigue that has grown over the years, or are these studios simply running out of new and exciting ideas that will get the general public to return to the theaters? 

This is a prevalent feeling in “Shazam! Fury of the Gods,” the newest film in the DC Cinematic Universe. This film picks up right where the first “Shazam!” (2019) left off, with Billy Batson (Asher Angel) and his foster siblings, now all with superhero abilities, working together as a team. They are all beginning to grow apart as they start to develop their own interests, leaving Billy as the one to try and keep them together. However, there is a mythical foe that threatens to steal their magical abilities. They are the daughters of Atlas, coming to Earth from another realm in order to get revenge for their father who was killed by the Wizard (Djimon Hounsou) from the first movie. While the sequel does have its occasional moments of enjoyable wit and light-hearted humor, most of the appeal that the first film had is lost in a drab and cliched story. 

The film is over two hours long, and much of that time is wasted on meandering exposition, dull action scenes and some meaningless attempts to connect to the wider DCEU. The film is definitely on a larger scale than the first one, with more characters to focus on and CGI-fueled sequences, but most of the action scenes lack any visual style and technique. This is especially prevalent in the final big action set piece, which opts for a sea of bland CGI creatures for the team to fight instead of anything memorable. Moreover, the most eye-rolling moment of the film has to be the pointless cameo in the final scene, which seemed more like a forced afterthought than a logical way to end the story. It wraps the film up in a weird and unsatisfying way, undermining much of the built-up emotion. One other point to note is the film’s very lazy use of product placement, which also comes at a pivotal moment in the film’s climax, feeling equally as unnecessary.

While “Shazam! Fury of the Gods” is a mostly bland and lackluster sequel, it is still a cut above many other recent films in the genre. Specifically, last year’s “Thor: Love and Thunder” as well as “Black Adam” are much harder to stomach than this lighthearted comedy. Like the first film, there is an emphasis on the emotions and the relationships between the young protagonists that give the film a softer core. Zachary Levi’s performance as the adult Shazam has clear charisma and comedic timing, even if it often feels as though he is playing his role as an 18-year-old teen a bit too childishly. Billy, now growing out of the foster age, feels as though he might lose his family, which adds an interesting dynamic to his character. There should have been more scenes with the family as their younger selves to further explore their characters, but their bond as siblings is still one of the highlights of the movie.

For the most part, “Shazam! Fury of the Gods” is more generic and forgettable when compared to its predecessor, yet it still holds on to at least some of the charm and personality to get a pass overall. However, the film is not likely to justify its existence with most audience members, especially in such an oversaturated market for superhero movies. It has some endearing qualities, but it is hard to shake the feeling that this is just another uninspired sequel.